Alan Turing

15 Oct, 2020 510 Mathematics

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Alan Turing (1912-1954) whose 1936 paper On Computable Numbers effectively founded computer science. Immediately recognised by his peers, his wider reputation has grown as our reliance on computers has grown. He was a leading figure at Bletchley Park in the Second World War, using his ideas for cracking enemy codes, work said to have shortened the war by two years and saved millions of lives. That vital work was still secret when Turing was convicted in 1952 for having a sexual relationship with another man for which he was given oestrogen for a year, or chemically castrated. Turing was to kill himself two years later. The immensity of his contribution to computing was recognised in the 1960s by the creation of the Turing Award, known as the Nobel of computer science, and he is to be the new face on the PS50 note.

Play on BBC Sounds website


  • Leslie Ann Goldberg 2 episodes
    Professor of Computer Science and Fellow of St Edmund Hall, University of Oxford
  • Simon Schaffer 25 episodes
    Professor of the History of Science at the University of Cambridge and Fellow of Darwin College
  • Andrew Hodges No other episodes
    Biographer of Turing and Emeritus Fellow of Wadham College, Oxford

Reading list

  • Turing and the Universal Machine: The Making of The Modern Computer
    Jon Agar (Icon, 2001) Google Books →
  • Turing's Vision: The Birth of Computer Science
    Chris Bernhardt (MIT Press, 2016) Google Books →
  • Codebreakers: The Inside Story of Bletchley Park
    F.H. Hinsley and Alan Stripp (eds.) (Oxford University Press, 1993) Google Books →
  • Alan Turing: The Enigma
    Andrew Hodges (first published Hutchinson, 1983; Vintage, 2014 ) Google Books →
  • Turing: A Natural Philosopher
    Andrew Hodges (Phoenix, 1997; Weidenfeld & Nicolson, January 2021 ) Google Books →
  • The Man Who Knew Too Much: Alan Turing and the Invention of the Computer
    David Leavitt (Atlas, 2006) Google Books →
  • Alan Turing's Manchester
    Jonathan Swinton (Infang Publishing, 2019) Google Books →
  • Alan Turing: Life and Legacy of a Great Thinker
    Christof Teuscher (ed.) (Springer, 2004) Google Books →
  • Prof: Alan Turing Decoded
    Dermot Turing (The History Press, 2015) Google Books →

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Programme ID: m000ncmw

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Auto-category: 510.92 (Biography of mathematicians and computer scientists)

Hello (First sentence from this episode) Hello. At the age of 24, Alan Turing founded computer science.